Recap: Invincible (S2, Ep3) — Mark Attempts to Balance His Lives in Dark, Shocking Episode
We all knew it was coming eventually: for three episodes, Earth's former super-defender Nolan Grayson (J.K. Simmons) has been looming over the planet—and his friends and family—without so much as a glimpse of him. But he had to come back at some point, right?
And come back he does in episode three of this season of Invincible, after a full episode of his son Mark (Steven Yeun) adjusting to college, his wife Debbie (Sandra Oh) struggling to move on from his disappearance, and a lot of space politics. The long-awaited return of Omni-Man is not the only thing making this episode great, but there's no denying how exciting his return is and how badly it makes me want to watch episode four.
Of course, the hero of the hour is Allen (Seth Rogen), the good-natured (if somewhat incompetent) alien peace agent with whom Mark had several run-ins last season. A lot of "This Missive, This Machination" focuses on intergalactic politics, and yet, in true Invincible fashion, none of the world building feels out of place or boring. Allen discussing previously unheard of events like "the Great Purge" with his superiors could come off as boring, but it instead gives the audience the idea that there's a world much, much bigger than just Earth in this universe.
It also helps that Allen is a likable character in general. Rogen steps away from his traditional stoner comedy rasp to portray Allen as a regular guy, with an interesting backstory that he, like Mark, exists to carry on his species' legacy. Mark exists to help Nolan conquer Earth, while Allen exists to stop Nolan's people, the Viltrumites, from doing this very thing. Both are people who have failed to serve their purpose (Mark rejecting Nolan's offer to take over Earth, Allen failing to defeat a Viltrumite) but choose to push on to find peaceful solutions despite their failure. Of course, with Allen, we see that this doesn't work out—a trio of Viltrumites corner and nearly kill him while he's on a date, and his superior, Thadeus (Peter Cullen), reveals himself as a Viltrumite agent when he disconnects poor Allen's life support.
So while Allen is getting his eye punched out (and what a gross visual that is!), Mark has a rather strange first day at college. It starts off well enough: he moves in with his best friend William (Andrew Rannells), sleeps with his girlfriend Amber (Zazie Beetz), and throws out most of his old action figures. Invincible tends to contrast growing up as a teenager with the ever-growing responsibilities of being a superhero, and these responsibilities indeed grow as the Thraxan race approaches him, asking for his help to save their planet from meteors. Mark's boss Cecil (Walton Goggins) tries to stop him, but he insists on doing the right thing.
Allen isn't the only parallel to Mark in this episode. There's a subplot featuring Rudy (Ross Marquand), one of the younger members of the Guardians hero team, forgoing his attempts to control his fear response on the battlefield in favor of going on a date with his teammate Monster Girl (Grey DeLisle). It works in the context of the show's themes and was fun enough, but I was so into Allen's storyline that I found myself wishing for more time spent in space than on Earth.
Possibly even heavier than Allen's beatdown is Debbie's storyline. After dropping Mark off at college, she finally decides to share the feelings she's been bottling up about Nolan at a support group focused on super-spouses. She finds herself getting along with one of the men there, only to become overwhelmed with guilt when she learns his wife was one of the heroes massacred by Nolan the previous year. Oh puts an incredible amount of grief and pain into Debbie's monologue about the destruction left in Nolan's wake, and watching her efforts to heal get put down by people going through the same thing is miserable, to say the least.
And of course, we end on the source of her misery. There's no way to tell what will happen next between Mark and Nolan—the confrontation between father and son has been building since the premiere, and in the next episode, it's going to explode. It could very well be a repeat of their brutal fight on Earth. It could be even worse than that, or it could come down to a simple talk. But no matter what it is, Mark is going to have to be ready, and it may just be outside the realm of his responsibilities.
This episode of Invincible is now available on Amazon Prime Video.
Sam Layton is a Chicago suburb native that's trying his best to make a career out of his (probably unhealthy) habit of watching too much television. When he's not working as the Third Coast Review's current sole TV reviewer, he's making his way through college or, shockingly, watching too much television.